“We’re going to have a fancy joint birthday dinner,” my friend J.S. informed me, “so get your suit dry cleaned, and get ready for fanciness.”
“Excellent,” I replied. “I will do just the thing that you have asked of me.” Behind this calm boast, however, was the very uncomfortable reality that I did not at that moment own a suit. Well, that’s not entirely true. A thinner version of myself had purchased a suit for a wedding several years ago, but Kevin Version 20.16 (patent pending) had been crafted with a rounder and fuller frame to meet the increasing demand in its target market for carbohydrate-rich beer. And so, due to the nature of how buttons function on clothing, wearing this too-small suit would require me to violate several longstanding city laws prohibiting public indecency. So … time to buy a new suit!
My previous experiences with suits came in two forms, which had very much the same flavor. The first was during my time in High School Theatre™. Because I wasn’t classically handsome (or talented) enough to play the leading man, I was usually relegated to playing some sort of older-but-still-likable authority figure, whose hallmarks were old age makeup and a suit. And since I didn’t go to the high school from “Fame,” there were only about, ohh, three suits to choose from in the costume department, all of them donated and far too large for a 5’3″ sophomore in high school with a negative BMI. These suits appeared, to all external observers, ready to swallow me whole at any moment. But I felt comfortable and safe, like the host in any symbiotic parasite-host relationship.
This comfortableness with suits that could easily fit a family of four was further cemented by my high school homecomings and proms. My parents assured me that wearing my father’s suits to these crucial adolescent rites of passage would look “very handsome.” And who would know men’s fashion preferences of high school girls in the mid-2000s better than my parents? To be honest, they probably knew exactly what they were talking about; since I could count on one hand the number of romantic words I’d said to women at that point, the evening would have ended–no matter what I wore–in an awkward, butts-out hug.
So when I went to buy a new suit, I was fully expecting to be purchasing a sort of flowing lapelled kimono robe, similar to this one.
However, the fates intervened. My wife’s very-well-dressed friend Charles met us for lunch, and we told him about my new suit quest and how I wasn’t sure exactly what size I was. “Well, when you get it tailored, they’ll take care of the fine-tuning,” he said. Tawhat? Tailoring a suit? It was as if he had told me that everything in the equation would make sense after I divided by zero. My fashion paradigm at the time had filed tailoring as applicable only to plutocrats and individuals with physical oddities.
According to Charles, though, suit sizes were merely meant to get the general fit of a suit correct, and a tailor was always supposed to take you the rest of the way. I was skeptical. It sounded like some classic add-on scamming common in the car sales industry with which I was also largely unfamiliar but still had a unfoundedly strong sense of knowing what I was talking about. I looked Charles up and down. He didn’t appear to be wearing a wire or to have any sort of bar code identifying him as a covert cyborg in the employ of Big Tailor.
But upon further reflection, why would a covert cyborg have an overt barcode?
Another reason I trusted him was that he said pretty much any dry cleaner or tailor in the city would do; he wasn’t advocating any sort of special service performed by licensed members of the Tailor’s Local #805, who were exposed as crooked and corrupt in the latest Eyewitness News exposé on Local News Channel. So I took him up on it.
Not since Taylor Lautner in Twilight was I so pleased with the performance of a Tailor. The tailored suit indicated not only that I had arms and legs, but also showed where those arms and legs began and ended. The suit contoured the area around my middle section to demonstrate that it had flesh and muscles and that it wasn’t just a nebulous bag of organ-cushioning fluid.
Tailoring the suit transformed it from “funerary shroud” to “wearable garment for a living person.” Which is good for me as a holistic person, but does severely limit my ability to fake haunt people. This made me feel very good, until I met up with J.S. for our birthday dinner to discover that he was wearing a different suit from the one he was wearing when we talked last. “You’re supposed to have more than one suit?” I asked.